Fifty years ago, Norton Juster’s book ‘The Phantom Tollbooth‘ was translated into a fantastic animated film by legendary animator Chuck Jones. The feature animated film starred a who’s who cast of voice actors including Mel Blanc, Hans Conried, and ‘The Munster’s own Butch Patrick. The fantasy adventure follows a boy named Milo, who is perpetually bored by the average world around him. This neverending malaise is squashed when a mysterious tollbooth materializes in his home, and he is whisked off to the Lands Beyond.
The lessons that Milo learns along his journey could apply to many adults today. Some of these things include the proper use of grammar or the importance of rhyme and reason to balance out chaos. Regardless of its use as a teaching tool, ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ is a masterpiece of animation with many of the hallmarks seen in Chuck Jones’s Looney Tunes shorts. There’s plenty of coyness and sharp wit to go around.
When I noticed that the 50th anniversary of the film’s release was this year, I reached out to star Butch Patrick. I hoped he could shed some light on the production side of things. How had it impacted him? What was it like working with such big names in the animation business? Why had the film flown under the radar for so many years post-release?
Surprisingly, even though the film is well-liked, it’s initial debut was not a success in part due to MGM. Butch clued us into why saying:
“MGM got out of the movie business. They sold off all their holdings… The movie never really got the push it deserved or the exposure of its release. It kinda fell through the cracks. It was always well received. It was always well-reviewed, but it never got the big release that Chuck was looking for.”
Check out our full interview with Mr. Patrick above!